Alison Zachritz

Program: GLOBES

Year of Matriculation: 2020

I am a PhD student studying the emerging contaminant PFAS (per- and poly fluoroalkyl substances) in the Great Lakes food web. PFAS are a family of approximately 5,000 man-made chemicals and are frequently found in consumer products like non-stick pans and waterproof clothing as well as industrial fire fighting foam. These chemicals have been associated with adverse human health effects including cancer, thyroid disease, and low birthweight, but little is known about how they behave and move throughout aquatic food webs.

Building on the novel methodological work of other lab members, I aim to survey fish in the Great Lakes and investigate concentrations of contaminants in other trophic levels (macroinvertebrates and primary producers) to better understand the bioaccumlative effects of PFAS. In addition to exploring how these emerging contaminants move through aquatic food webs, I hope this research provides insight for regulators and resource managers as they evaluate the potential human health impacts of emerging contaminants in the Great Lakes.

Prior to joining the Stream and Wetland Ecology Lab at Notre Dame, I worked as an environmental consultant, first at the Great Lakes Environmental Center as a field biologist on the EPA’s National Coastal Conditions Assessment sampling water, sediment, fish, and benthic invertebrates on Lake Superior and then for four years at Nova Consulting & Engineering in NYC on stormwater, wetland, and environmental permitting projects.